22 February 2018

Meters Fees & Charges: Nobody likes them!

Last November, in the 2018 Park Board budget deliberations, seasonal parking fees were introduced at Spanish Banks beach. This is the last beach in Vancouver to have parking fees, and the community, not unexpectedly, reacted negatively. No one likes to pay for parking. Nobody likes additional charges. 

I get it. I dont like to pay either. But that fact is beaches, parks, and recreation cost money. According to a CUPE report from 2017, while 60% of infrastructure in Canada is in urban areas, only 12 cents of every dollar paid in taxes in Canada goes to municipal governments. Municipal governments build, maintain, and replace this infrastructure and yet dont have the ability to collect income related taxeswhich is why we pay property taxes. 

Unfortunately, for the Park Board, only 51% of the annual operating budget comes from municipal taxes; the remaining 49% comes from fees & charges (about 41%) and other revenue sources. So the Park Board must find sources for this gap. Year after year, ratepayers in Vancouver have said they would rather have increased user fees than increased property taxes.

Beautiful beaches, nice parks, and active recreational programs dont come for free. The 2018 Park Board Operating Budget consists of $122,805,851 in expenditures and transfers, which is funded by $63,256,313 of tax-based operating funds and $59,549,538 in revenues. The choice for Commissioners each year is do we ask City Council to raise taxes (which they may or may not do) to fund increased cost, or do we find new sources of revenue or increase the current ones.

This year staff recommended, and Commissioners voted, to increase fees in some locations and add an additional parking charge at Spanish Banks. 

Spanish Banks beach is a unique place and public transportation is limited. These beaches are popular partly because parking has been free until now. But has it really been free? Someone pays. Just as someone pays for lifeguards, the change-rooms, and beach maintenance. Nothing is really free.

After hearing from the public the Park Board made some changes to the program this week. Rather than the usual April 1st through September 30th period at most seasonal pay lots, Spanish Banks will see metered parking only between the May long weekend and the Labour Day long weekend. Charges will only come into effect at 9 am (rather than the usual 6 am) so that early morning walkers and dog runners will be able to park without charge. And a $87 seasonal parking pass (working out to about 80 cents/day) will be promoted.

No one runs for office on a platform of increased fees or taxes. No elected official likes to increase costs for constituents. But the fact remains: costs increase year over year. Park Board has no control over taxation and so it can either propose to cut services or increase fees. This year the Commissioners chose to increase fees. Next year we may have to choose to cut services, and I can guarantee, the outcry will be similar.

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